Enter the Young
Recently, the demands of "keeping in touch" forced me into purchasing a new, fancy telephone that came with a plenitude of applications that I shall never use – but I can make a telephone call. As a person, I wonder if I am becoming more separated from the world. As a priest, I wonder if I am becoming more separated from the young, millennial Catholic population who are much more comfortable with newfangled technology and, perhaps, more comfortable with a newfangled Catholic spirituality.
Much is happening in youth ministry and a burgeoning outreach to young adult Catholics is taking place, but how much do these young Catholics understand their identity with their home parishes? In an article in Saint Anthony Messenger, Jessica Zimanske writes, "Many of the college campuses they left boast thriving Bible studies and student–led Masses or, in non–Catholic schools, Newman Centers for spiritual growth. So when these millennials come home, they often lose those supportive faith communities and are forced to integrate into their "old" churches where they're more familiar with the Sunday school programs they might have attended than with adult ministries." I admit to an unsettling feeling from these comments. Are not the so-called millennial Catholics supposed to be a part of the entire faith community within their parishes? Are they looking to create a "custom designed entity" separate from the rest of the society of faithful that constitute the parish? Or is this a clarion call that the young adult Catholic is looking for the parish to recognize that they are there and want to contribute to the life of the parish family? Like any family, each age group has a unique insight and energy that needs to be utilized for the family as a whole to thrive. Parishes must be centers of formation for all of its members to grow in faith and to develop specific ways to accomplish it.
Throughout its history, the Church has displayed a phenomenal ability to fashion modes of worship and prayer that are diverse and yet united in their goal.
Millennials like me want to feel that our parish can be our home at any age – and to feel that there are positions and opportunities for us to serve in that parish faith community. You may not see us at the 7:30a.m. Mass, but we'll take advantage of the alternate Mass times And the virtual prayer networks that easily meld into our everyday lives. We have unique gifts that we want to use, particularly in our technological proficiency, but we need an invitation and reassurance that even though we may be past Confirmation age, we still have a role within and outside the Mass.
Jessica Zimanske, St. Anthony Messenger, August 2014
There is no shortage of challenges for the young Catholics in this 21st Century of ours. No matter how high-minded the rhetoric, fundamental understandings of the dignity and worth of human life, the necessity for firm moral ground to stand on, the ability to employ a sound conscience, and the protection of religious freedom are under siege. The young adult Catholics have the great Truth and the great Tradition of the Church to fall back on as a bulwark against the enemies of faith. As always, the greatest strength of the Church lies in the degree of authentic Christian living exhibited in the lives of its people. Young and old bear the same task and they must stand together in love and support in order to bring that task to a fruitful end. Today's environment presents problems and opportunities that share similarities with the past and facets peculiar to our times. Let faith, hope, and charity – the lasting things – exert their benign force in guiding our millennials and the rest of us as well.
I am sure that the millennials of A.D. 1001 found a Church in need of the contributions that would help to proclaim the gospel to their age and to build a stronger and stronger community of faith. The young adult Catholics of today have their own age to contend with and they share the same mission of the Church in all ages. I pray that they are given all the encouragement and all of the opportunity to witness their Catholic faith.